In the wake of what I've been led to believe is the 37th agonizing and inexplicable extra-inning loss for the White Sox this season, I'm actually not trying to play the "THIS IS GUT CHECK TIME" card at the moment. Though apparently others in high places are.
Believe me, it's just because Tuesday night's 13-inning loss to the Colorado Rockies constituted the 80th game of the season for the White Sox, and with the ChicagoNow WordPress transfer going down Wednesday, who knows if I'll have a moment to assess this underwhelming season's midpoint.
Because seriously, except for the part where Juan Pierre reached base three times, how perfectly did Tuesday lay out all the problems of the Sox in pulsing, bleeding detail?
The White Sox got a good effort from their starter Gavin Floyd, who
battled through blatantly not having his curveball, heroic work into
13th inning from the bullpen....and 2 runs and a sack of blown
opportunities from their offense, and an inexplicable defensive breakdown to seal their fate. Also, it was in extras, so that was pretty perfect too.
And just for scenery, in case being 4-games under .500 and another string of poor offense didn't hit things home, Ozzie's berating and benching veterans for lack of hustle, the wayward slugger is playing golf with the team shrink, and the first-round draft pick is playing baseball in Alaska...and we're not exactly sure why.
So, yeah, that's where we're at.
The White Sox offense is a wood-chipper, and our hopes and ambitions are a hand stuck in a wood-chipper
Previously, I addressed the way the White Sox offense seems to be torturing their fanbase in terms of their horrible aversion to high-leverage performance.
They were hitting 35 wRC+ at the time in high-leverage, and were
performing at levels that made the 2003 Detroit Tigers (They won 43
games) look like compatriots. I argued that this was a reason for hope,
and that should tell you how the season has gone.
They've ticked it up to 53 wRC+, which is still pretty easily worst in
the league, and still an area to expect recovery from. The Sox went 1
for 11 with a walk and a double play in those situations Tuesday night,
and generally we expect them to hit better than .091 in neutral
But they also just stink in general, and I wonder if that's going away.
And by "wonder", I mean I severely doubt it but am trying to stave off
miserable prickdom until at least August.
Most of the Sox counting stats (runs, HRs, etc) and even rate stats
(OBP, SLG, wOBA) hover in the middle of the pack. Not recipes for
success, but not terror either. Yet, it's galling to see a team built
around the home run slugging under .400 and 11th in baseball in
11th!?!? The Sox haven't finished outside the top ten in HRs since 1999!
This is reflected in the park-adjusted wRC+ stat (weighted runs created)
which sits the Sox at 94, six percent below average, and 4th worst in
the AL. It's easy to figure why; Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, Alexei Ramirez,
and even Gordon Beckham, A.J. Pierzynski, and Brent Morel are swatting
flies under what they were projected for.
So while this team surely could use a speedy leadoff hitter that's
actually good at getting on base as much as the next team, they're
really missing their power, and Dayan Viciedo wouldn't hurt that.
But yeah, we mostly need Dunn.
Another knife in the back
Thankfully for the White Sox, I haven't seen any work as far as team
defensive performance in high-leverage situations, but Brent
Lillibridge's failure to toss back in a bloop single before Troy
Tulowitski was familiarly baffling for a variety of reasons
-After all the defensive gut-punches, for Lillibridge--who has saved
several games this season--to play the heel almost seems like the fates
are switching things up to keep the joke fresh.
-It'd be a lot easier to forgive Lillibridge for taking his time to
gather the ball in, if he hadn't already done it in the 7th and allowed
Eric Young to advance to 3rd on a single...in yet another situation
where he was playing no doubles alignment. His post-game quote
doesn't come off as particularly contrite, as if he had just decided to
be cautious to a fault rather than fell asleep out there. Again,
that's a pretty weird tact considering he came in for Alex Rios, who
just got benched for dogging it. Maybe Brent just plays it that cool.
-It apparently worked on Ozzie, who "wasn't upset with Lillibridge, but he was still furious with Rios."
Given the way he angrily stormed out the dugout, this reaction is
unexpected. It appears Guillen has decided that Lillibridge will
castigate himself enough for not being more aggressive, but saw a vacuum
of accountability as Rios jogged out a fly out. If this is a
consistent policy, AJ might be dead in a week.
Going forward, because we must
Whether or not individual turning points exist in baseball seasons
is up for debate, but it'll be worth watching how much Ozzie will try to
make this one, whether Rios is facing a multi-game punishment
(especially seeing as his replacement is on the downslide), and whether
this is some new age of Guillen coming down harder on the players who
regular piss him off. Language like "worst loss of the season" is only
thrown around once, twice a month tops.